Sexual Self-Expression

In the first of the current series of articles on authentic sexual self-expression I suggested that sexuality is best held, understood and expressed within the total context of all of the self-expressions. It  follows that when you confidently hold your own unique physical attractiveness, are comfortable with emotional expression of and receptivity to both welfare (for example, love, joy, excitement) and emergency (for example, anger, sadness, fear) feelings, have a profound sense of the enormity of your intelligence, own, understand and take responsibility for your behaviour towards yourself, others and the environment, enjoy your own company and the company of others, irrespective of gender, age, status, education and wealth, know the limitless extent of the creativity you have to design your own unique living, work and recreation and you occupy the house of your own sacred individuality, then authentic sexual expression is well grounded and supported. However, there are few individuals who have come into such a realisation of their wholeness manifested in such mature ways. The reality is that in one or other or, sometimes, all of the self-expressions you have encountered interruptions – the defensive responses of parents, teachers, relatives, clergy and other significant adults who peopled your childhood years.

Physically, you may have experienced a lack of physical holding, borne the brunt of critical comments about your shape, size, height or looks and suffered comparisons that favoured a brother or sister. Sexually, you may have encountered early and uninvited sexualisation, exposure to pornography, no preparation or education on sexual behaviour or sexual violations. Emotionally, you may have had to swallow down feelings of anger, hurt, sadness, upset in the face of threats to expression of these feelings or dare not express a need for love, affection, warmth, due to emotionless or absent parenting. Intellectually, intelligence may have been confused with knowledge and any lack of knowledge on your part may have been followed by criticism or sarcasm or cynicism and comparison or a labelling of you as slow, weak or stupid. Even worse, you may have been labelled as having such (unsubstantiated) syndromes as ADD, ADHD, Dyslexia, Dyspraxia, Oppositional Defiance Disorder, Minimal Brain Dysfunction to mention just a few. The rate of interruptions in children’s realisation of their intellectual power beyond measure is a hugely uncharted territory that has devastating results on a child’s overall development. Behaviour is one of the ways you get to experiment, know and understand your world but any criticism, impatience, doing it for you, aggression, violence are serious interruptions to the self’s behavioural expression.

Each of us wants to belong to a partner, a family, a classroom, a school, a workplace, a community but, sadly, so many have been disappointed by either an over-belonging (suffocates individuality) or an under-belonging (suppresses individuality) or no belonging (annihilates individuality).

Each person is a unique phenomenon, an unrepeated happening in this world – a creation that is gifted with the very creativity that gave rise to humanity. Each child fashions his/her own responses to the open or defensive responses of parents and expresses their individuality in unique ways. Pressures to conform, suppression of difference, symbiotic relationships where you dare not exhibit individuality, criticism and dismissiveness of your creative attainments all affect the self’s creative expression.

And, spiritually, Catholicism, ironically, strangled the divine that is within each of us, and materialism and reductionism in education, medicine, psychiatry and, indeed, in some psychological therapies have eclipsed the light of our true and amazing nature. often quite our of sight.

When you examine where you currently stand in view of the foregoing, and your reflection draws a dark picture of hurts, fears, doubts and insecurities across the self-expressions, other than sexual expression, you can well understand how difficult it is for young and old alike to confidently and authentically give expression to his/her sexuality. If I hate my physical expression (not at all uncommon), repress or suppress what I truly feel and have difficulty in receiving love, affection, regard or personalise other people’s expression of anger, frustration, sadness, believe that ‘I’m your average man’ or even less so intellectually, feel incompetent in understanding my own and other’s behaviour and do not have a strong sense of being in charge of my everyday world, feel shy, timid, fearful, unsure or dominant, controlling, intimidating, manipulative in my relationships with others, feel creatively redundant and spiritually hopeless, how can I from such a dark background be authentically sexually expressive?

Resolving the interruptions – the disconnections with some or most aspects of our unique nature is often a pre-requisite to mature sexual self-expression. Interruptions to our sexuality and sexual behaviour are not life and death issues but disconnection from the lovability of our authentic self can often become a matter of life and death. We are much more likely to re-connect with our sexuality following reconnection with our lovability and, indeed, immense capability.

Dr. Tony Humphreys practices as a clinical psychologist and is co-author with Dr. Helen Ruddle of Relationship, Relationship, Relationship, The Heart of a Mature Society.